There are five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My boss asked us to share deeply painful experiences

I work as a teacher at a non-profit charter school that is heavily geared towards a mission of racial justice and racial empowerment. Today our new headmaster opened a mindfulness training session with an activity asking teachers and staff to share a painful experience we had with each other. As examples, he gave the death of a family member or a pet, but said we didn’t have to share anything that was uncomfortable for us (although we all had to share). Unfortunately, with some people sharing very traumatic or tragic memories, there was a lot of pressure to dig deep and personal to show our buy-in.

A lot of us were really unhappy with how this went and some of us felt tense for the rest of the day. The rationale was that it made us feel vulnerable, which will help us understand our students better. Personally, I would prefer not to feel vulnerable at all around my colleagues. I know boundaries can be weird in nonprofits, but was that one okay? Was it justified by the explanation given?

I am skeptical that you even needed any mindfulness activity, but if so, it should not have relied on deeply painful, personal experiences. “It makes you feel vulnerable” is not a good rationale – vulnerability is not inherently valuable in every context and in some cases (especially in some professional contexts) can be directly harmful. It is also much easier to make yourself vulnerable when you start from a position of power and / or like the majority; it can be a completely different experience when you aren’t. It is true that there can be slightly different boundaries when working in education and / or racial justice … but empathy for students can be found in many other ways. This exercise was a strangely blunt tool to produce when that was actually the goal.

You and some of your co-workers who shared your discomfort might consider giving this feedback to your school principal – say it felt inappropriate for the context and did the opposite of promoting mindfulness for you, and request that future ones Activities are less invasive. However, if the school’s philosophy is geared towards this type of personal vulnerability, you may need to decide if this is the culture for you.

Related: Forcing employees to talk about their feelings is not good for our mental health

2. My colleague has brought a terrible smelling candle warmer

My colleague brought a candle heater / warmer into our little office and the smell is awful! It causes headaches (I have frequent migraines) and makes my asthma worse! I feel like a nag to complain about it, but it’s awful! What should I do?

You have to have a say! If something is giving you a headache in your work environment and making your asthma worse, that’s a big deal! In all honesty, it’s not overly considerate of your colleague to bring a product whose point is to inject a scent into the air that everyone else breathes, and you are on very solid ground if you explain that it bothers you, and ask her to take it home. Their need to work without physical discomfort trumps their interest in smelling the air around them.

It is inappropriate to say to your colleague, “I am so sorry, but I have found that your candle melter is making my asthma worse. Could you keep it at home instead? ”For most people, that will be all. But if it is not resolved, ask your boss to intervene. You’re not a nag, any more than you would be if you alerted your office to a ceiling leak dripping on your head or if you had a fatal allergy to a visiting dog.

3. Have I been blacklisted?

I believe I was blacklisted from taking up a job in the job I currently do.

I recently had a brief contract that was completed ahead of schedule. My contract house contact was just as surprised as I was. When asked for feedback, the assignment company gave a very cryptic answer (“It’s not their work, it’s something else”).

Since then, I have continued to apply for many positions that match my skills and experience through contract houses and direct applications to companies. I’ve had a few that made it into the phone interview phase. But after the first telephone interviews, something strange happens: Nothing. I do not mean that I am getting the “Position has been filled” email. All communication just stops.

I recently had a phone call about a job with a contractor. We were supposed to talk again two days later at an agreed time and I even received a confirmation email. On the day of the meeting – nothing. No phone call, not even a follow-up email that the position was filled or the appointment had to be canceled. I asked by phone and email whether there was a conflicting appointment or the position had been filled, but no answer.

I have to wonder if there has been any misinformation that would damage my credibility without my knowledge. If so, are there any steps that can be taken to correct the potential misinformation? I know that receiving rejection notices while looking for a job is part of the process. But what does it mean when communication just stops during an interview? I would be very happy to understand what happened.

I don’t think you were blacklisted; it sounds like you have a pretty standard job search. It’s incredibly common for companies to first come into contact with a candidate and then completely haunt them and ignore the person’s attempts to contact them. It’s rude, but it’s so, so common. It is not a sign that there is a problem with your reputation or that you have been blacklisted. I would be more concerned if it happened at the end of the hiring process – if you got rave feedback by the time you review the references.

I can understand why you are concerned as this came right after this cryptic feedback. But a company that ends a contract early and says, “It’s not their job, it’s something else” sounds like it has nothing to do with you – reorganization or money problems or something else on their side.

4. Why are small employers not covered by labor protection laws?

I have a general question about labor rights for small organizations or businesses. Many labor laws don’t come into effect until the employer has 10-15 employees, but I haven’t found any reason or guidance on what safeguards you might still be entitled to if your employer doesn’t have that many employees. For example, why should a pregnant worker in a company with eight employees not enjoy the same level of protection against harassment or discrimination as a company with 15?

In my field, it’s not uncommon for companies to be small (10 employees or less) and most of them work part-time. Unlike in urban areas, it is difficult to find a job with more than 10-15 employees in an organization.

I would love to stand up for myself and others, but finding answers was more than frustrating. Aside from state laws that may complement federal laws, could you explain what protections or rights workers or workers with fewer workers have?

You are right that state anti-discrimination laws apply to employers with 15 or more employees (with the exception of age discrimination, which applies to ages 20 and over). And FMLA covers employers with more than 50 employees. However, the Fair Labor Standards Act, which contains regulations on minimum wages and overtime pay, applies to employers of all sizes.

When the laws passed, Congress was concerned about the impact on small businesses and exempted employers under a certain size from some of them. The idea was that it can be significantly more difficult for a four-person company to cope with an employee’s long sick leave or parental leave than for a larger one. But it is not at all clear why the same logic should apply to protection against harassment, for example. (Interestingly, it was already great Companies exempted from newer laws – like last year’s Emergency Paid Family and Sick Leave Act, which has now expired but only applied to employers with fewer than 500 employees.)

If you work for an employer with fewer than 15 employees, it is best to adhere to the laws of your country. Many states have adopted safeguards that take effect at much lower thresholds.

5. Shall we catch up on vacationers who missed them?

Our management is currently discussing the best way to organize vacation for employees with alternative working hours. We are open MF from early morning to late evening and on some Saturdays to best serve our population. Some of our direct service employees can set their own preferred flexible working hours, such as four 10-hour days or part-time Tuesday through Thursday. Our problem is when the entire organization is closed for a public holiday, e.g. B. on Labor Day on Monday. In those cases where an employee never works on a Monday due to his or her schedule, he requests a “replacement day” as a public holiday.

Should we continue to offer this? The benefit of the offer is, of course, to continue an existing benefit, but the two main disadvantages are that we don’t offer this flexible schedule to support employees and we end up needing less coverage on the “replacement” days. If we choose to keep the replacement option, we need to set at least a few parameters so that people don’t request this time out after their diaries are full of customers. That was disruptive to both our operations team and our customers. What would you recommend us for the future?

Different companies do this in different ways. Some employers give their employees the option to take another day off if a public holiday falls on their regular day off. Others don’t. In a situation like yours, where people set their own flexible schedules, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to decide that a compromise on that flexibility is that you don’t offer holiday makeup days for people who have picked up their own Timetables.

Ideally, however, you should decide based on the business impact. If you can afford it and it’s not bothersome, then it is usually a better option not to take away from an advantage that people enjoy. But you need to structure it so that it doesn’t interfere with your customer schedules and coverage. Setting some constraints to minimize interference is probably the right tradeoff.



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